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Thursday 9 July 2020

Holy Cow

Out of 8.7 million species of animals in the world, why has cow been so important in traditional India? How is cow so different? Is it superstition that makes cow alone respectable in our society?

In Indian culture, we see animals as a very important part of basic ecology. To give them the due respect, one animal was associated with each god and demigod in the Hindu pantheon so that, while a person prays in a temple or bows in front of a deity, he does the same with the associated animal, like Shiva has a snake and a bull, Ganesha’s head is of an elephant and his vehicle is a rat, Vishnu has Sheshnag and Garuda, Durga has a lion, Lakshmi has an owl, Kartikeya/Murugan/Senthil has a peacock, Hanuman is linked to monkey, Yama has a buffalo, Dashavatara of Vishnu has Varaha (wild boar), Matsya (fish), Kurma (tortoise) and Narsimha (lion) and so on. Out of all his brothers and wife, the only one to accompany Yudhisthira till heaven was a dog. So animal has a specific space which is sacred, which is holy. But how is cow different?

Cow is the only animal in Hindu idolatry where Kamadhenu is depicted as the mother of the species. “Kamdhenu” is the one who grants all wishes. All your desires can be fulfilled by just expressing a wish to it; that is its literal meaning. But how do these wishes come true?

I understood the answer to this recently.

There is an age-old Indian concept of panchagavya. The term was coined in Vedic India. Probably sciences of the time included the knowledge of dairy ingredients. It is because the cow is “wholly” created by God for helping human beings, Hindus believe. A religion may be scientific, but rituals are follow-ups of the religion that many follow without caring for the reasons. The ritual of believing that Cow is “Holy” was carried forward without knowing the reasoning behind it. Most of modern India wouldn’t know the concept of panchagavya as the present-day education system is not Vedic, but one that was established by the British.

Let’s see what World Wide Web has to say about this ancient age old Indian term. The Wikipedia article based on the International Journal of Cow Science says,

“Panchagavya or panchakavyam is a concoction prepared by mixing five products of cow. The three direct constituents are cow dung, urine, and milk; the two derived products are curd and ghee. These are mixed in proper ratio and then allowed to ferment. Panchamrita is a similar mixture that replaces dung and urine with honey and sugar. The mixture which is made using yeast as a fermenter, bananas, groundnut cake, and the water of tender coconut, is a potent organic pesticide and growth promoter. The Sanskrit word Panchagavya means ‘mixture of five cow products’, and it has been used in traditional Indian rituals throughout history. It is also called cowpathy treatment based on products obtained from cows used in Ayurvedic medicine and of religious significance for Hindus. Panchagavya is also used as fertilizers and pesticides in agricultural operations.”

Just imagine ‘cowpathy’!

But we are ‘modern’ people driven by science. How can we believe in an age old tradition without putting it on to the scientific tests?

So I did further research. As we all use cow milk, curd/yogurt and ghee/white butter in routine, so there’s no doubt about its efficacy. But how can the waste — cow dung and cow urine — be useful? So I did a search focused on the waste and what I found was amazing again.

Cow Dung Use

In many parts of the developing world, and in the past in mountain regions of Europe, caked and dried cow dung is used as fuel. Dung may also be collected and used to produce biogas to generate electricity and heat. The gas is rich in methane and is used in rural areas of India and Pakistan and elsewhere to provide a renewable and stable source of electricity. In central Africa, Maasai villages burn cow dung inside homes to repel mosquitoes. In cold places, cow dung is used to line the walls of rustic houses as a cheap thermal insulator. Cow dung is also an optional ingredient in the manufacture of adobe mud brick housing depending on the availability of materials at hand.

A deposit of cow dung is referred to in American English as a “cow chip,” or less commonly “cow pie,” and in British English as a “cowpat” When dry, it is used in the practice of “cow chip throwing” popularised in Beaver, Oklahoma in 1970. On 21 April 2001, Robert Deevers of Elgin, OK set the record for cow chip throwing with a distance of 185 feet 5 inches.

Biomass has become an increasingly important energy source in Denmark over the last 25 years. Being a carbon-neutral energy source, it has already helped make a significant contribution to the reduction of Danish carbon emissions. The conversion of more biomass at power stations will help Denmark reach its target of 30% renewable energy by 2020. Today, biomass accounts for approximately 12% of world energy consumption.

Cow urine ingredients

Urokinase, Epithelium growth factor, Colony stimulating factor, Growth hormone, Erythropoetine, Gonadotropins, Tripsyn inhibitor, Allantoine, Anti-cancer substance – Anti-neoplaston, H-11 beta-iodole-acetic acid, directine, 3-methyl gloxal, Nitrogen, Sulphur, Ammonia, Copper, Iron, Phosphate, Sodium, Potassium, Magnese, Carbolic Acid, Calcium, Salts, Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, Lactose Sugar, Enzymes, Water, Hippuric Acid, Creatinine.

If the waste can be so useful, what to talk about the normal produce of milk, curd, butter, cheese and other derivatives? That makes a living cow much more valuable than a dead one used as beef or cow leather.

I can understand the challenges of the human race during the coldest weathers of Europe and North America, and the scarcity of food during stone ages. Killing a cattle at that point in time could give food to a family for many days, but what makes the practice continue today? It’s simple economic reason. As we are unaware of the Vedic reasoning of cowpathy; the dead cattle is more valuable that the living one. But now that we know the reasoning, which is proven by scientific methods, I think we’ll value them more.

Even when the cow stops giving milk, the very existence of cow is good for human life, for the environment, for the atmosphere and for a healthy life.

The views expressed in this article have not been verified using credible scientific sources. However, many Hindus do believe these to be true.

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